If we are honest with ourselves, most of us consider conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke something that only older people need to worry about -- that is, people older than we are now.
Personally, I never gave heart disease or high blood pressure a second thought until one of my co-workers suffered her first stroke at age 36.
Within the last two weeks, one woman I know suffered her first heart attack at age 30 and my sister suffered a stroke at age 41 due to unchecked high blood pressure.
So, when should we begin worrying about heart attack and high blood pressure and the sometimes life-threatening, and often physically devastating, effects? Truthfully, it’s never too early to begin living a heart healthy lifestyle.
While lifestyle changes may help manage -- and even prevent -- heart disease and high blood pressure as we age, the trick to enjoying a heart and blood pressure healthy future may rest with the lifestyle choices we make in our childhood and teen years.
According to one Australian study, the lifestyle choices teens make today may have long term health consequences affecting their risk of heart disease and high blood pressure well into the future.
Researchers found that teen behaviors such as consuming excess dietary salt, increased body-mass-index or BMI, obesity, the use of birth control bills, and for teen boys, alcohol, resulted in greater risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
The findings were based on results from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort Study. Also known as Raine, the study began in 1989 and followed 2868 children from birth to age 17.
By age 17, only 1771 children were still part of the Raine study. Study participants were followed at regular intervals occurring at age 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 14, and 17 years.
At age 17, the remaining participants were asked to provide input on their lifestyle habits including things such as whether or not they were physically active, smoking habits, use of alcohol, diet, contraception usage, and other medications used.